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SNEWS Qs, Paul Toback, CEO Sproing Fitness

SNEWS recently chatted with Paul Toback, CEO and co-founder of Sproing Fitness to see what he has in store for us at IHRSA 2013.

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The Sproing treadmill sprung onto the fitness scene back in 2011 at IHRSA, and while the concept is still the same (a treadmill that reduces impact on the knees by providing a soft surface to run on), the new models are completely different than the prototype of 2011.

SNEWS recently chatted with Paul Toback, CEO and co-founder of Sproing Fitness to see what he has in store for us at IHRSA 2013.

Tell us about the history of your company:
We started the company in our garages three years ago. We built a prototype out of wood lawnmower tires and camping mattresses and from that we worked diligently to evolve the product and get tremendous amounts of feedback, the final commercial product came to market nine months ago (April 2012).

What changes have you made to the Sproing since you launched?
When we talked two years ago, we were showing a prototype. Now, the concept is exactly the same but the equipment completely is different. The look is different, the color scheme is different, the materials are different – there’s much more molded plastic on it – and the look is much more appropriate for the health and fitness club.

We added strength functionality by adding four strength pods: Two on the vertical column and two on the base of the unit. With those you can do strength and cardio together. Adding that balance and power all in one place is unique. Most units are cardio units or strength units. We have a completely integrated unit to do strength work while you’re doing intervals or cardio and strength back to back.

Why did you decide to attend IHRSA this year? Is this your first time at IHRSA?
We were there two years ago with the prototype but this will be the first IHRSA where we’re debuting the final product. We’re really excited to be there to show the final product.

What are your goals in attending this trade show?
I think it’s going to be important for us to really introduce the unit to people and let them know a couple things: First, we want them to know how the product can help health clubs in a number of ways; and second, this is really the first redesign of the treadmill in 60 years.

The treadmill was introduced to the commercial market in 1952 and it’s always been two rollers on a nylon belt over a very hard wooden deck. We sat down and thought, ‘How do you redesign a 60-year-old product? What should the modern treadmill be?’ It should be functional, help you land on your forefoot instead of your heel to create the right running form, create a forward lean, and add strength because everybody needs a strength/cardio balance. It should also be completely low impact.

So we designed something to encompass all that and to eliminate hard pounding on your body. Even more significantly you can use it as a cardio tool and small group-training tool.

That’s really what we hope to introduce people to – you don’t have to run in a way that beats your body up and you can introduce an amazing small group training program and you can do it with equipment that sits on the cardio floor.

They’re the same footprint as a treadmill and have small group programming capabilities – it’s a triple-threat in one piece as opposed to a very one-dimensional piece in traditional cardio.

What kind of demonstrations will you offer at IHRSA 2013?
We want people to try and feel the machine. We’re also going to be running and demoing our small group classes with three or four people in a class at a time. These small-group Sproing classes are a cool thing because it’s like spinning for runners – everybody, from people who are being conditioned as well as elite athletes are all working out together at their own pace.

Are the small-group classes designed specifically for Sproing?
Yes. We’ve had a team develop workouts based on metabolic conditioning, or interval training. Classes offer 30-second intervals and the power of this program is you can run 30-minute classes, people can come in and get a better full body workout in less time which is what consumers want. If you can do more in less time there’s a powerful member retention tool.

We didn’t invent the concept of metabolic conditioning, but we feel we did a good job of mastering it with these courses.

What is the Sproing’s price point when compared to other cardio equipment?

It’s very comparable. The list price is $7,900 for the Sproing and I think that is well within the price parameters of other commercial cardio equipment. But I would communicate the message that you would give so much more than the traditional cardio piece. So many people have had to give up running because of the pounding, and they’ve had to move to low-impact exercises like the elliptical. The Sproing is really a tool to give people a chance to do what they love to do – running – without the impact. I think from a price point and value perspective, this machine is the best value out there.

What trade shows have you exhibited at and how has the feedback been from the community?
We are at a trade show right now in Indianapolis showing it to teams. Right now we have units in health clubs, rehabilitation centers and in training gyms of sports teams.

We have some really nice penetration with some big names but the trade show circuit as you would say for the final product is something we’ve been doing in the last 60 days.

We already have this with two NFL teams if you go on our website you’ll see a video done by the head trainer for St. Louis Rams and you’ll see the amazing things they say about it. It’s a great tool for athletes who are looking to avoid impact and looking for intense workouts, the people get it here immediately they’re amazed at the functionality it provides they’re pleased with what they can do with it and what it can do for people

There’s a big need to let people exercise better in less time without injury.

Do you see any home units in Sproing’s future?
Right now we’ve got two units – a commercial unit and a professional sport unit, which we’re showing to NFL teams. That’s where we are right now, but we believe there is an opportunity for a home version somewhere soon in the future.

What were some of the challenges in getting your business up and running?
We had a lot of technology issues to solve because we wanted to make sure the equipment was durable and had enough functionality that a new piece needed. We workedhard to get those components working.

Now the challenge is getting our message out and hoping people see the huge potential in the product. We want to get as many consumers on it as we can and we really need to show them how great this can be.

In the end consumers in our industry judge equipment based on how it feels for them and what it does for them. When consumers get on it and feel how great thisequipment is, and they see how amazing the programming can be, that’ll makes a difference.

From our standpoint we just want to really encourage people to try it and understand that this can be a powerful business driver and result driver.

–Compiled by Ana Trujillo